Thinking of getting a pet to enrich your life or adopting an animal that needs a good home? How about getting a chicken.
When our dear dog Sadie passed away early in the summer, there was an animal void in my family. Not quite ready to find, adopt and train another dog, we decided we would get chickens as our new pet.
We did our research, bought an IKEA-style “assemble yourself” chicken coop for $300, built an enclosed run to add to the coop for $150, found 4 chickens off Craigslist for $20 and spent $30 on a bag of organic chicken feed.
The chickens are the easiest pets we’ve ever had. They are extremely curious and social creatures. They range free in our backyard all day, bury themselves in the dirt under the hedges, come running to us when we enter the backyard and enjoy watching us in our house through the kitchen windows. On top of that, they provide us with 2-4 eggs per day! Since acquiring the chickens I have learned to make a pretty mean quiche.
The kids are responsible for feeding and watering the chickens and collecting the eggs daily. They pet the chickens and try to teach them tricks. They are currently trying to get them to jump through a hoola hoop. They got this idea off a Youtube link showing a chicken doing agility
There were no issues with the neighbours. After the first dozen delicious eggs we brought over to them, they were more than on board. When we go away for a weekend, a neighbourhood child will happily feed the chickens and collect the eggs for us and are more than happy to accept the eggs as payment for their care.
Our cat was the only family member who initially was not sure what had invaded her back yard. She sat at our back door for the first several days just watching the chickens, not venturing past the threshold of the door. Eventually she braved going up to them for a sniff. Now the chickens and her have a mutual respect for each other’s space and co-exist in the backyard together.
There are a few hurdles in owning backyard chickens, the main one being that recently their feed has attracted rats into the yard; it’s an issue we are currently trying to solve.
When we first got our chickens they were extras from a big commercial farm. Having known only the inside of a factory farm they were feather pecked and skiddish. Now, they are chickens with beautiful plumage that sun bathe in the dirt and forage for worms and insects as chickens should.
Overall it has been a wonderful experience for all involved, including the chickens.
In 2009, the City of Vancouver amended its by-laws to allow for the keeping of backyard hens. All the rules and regulations can be found on this website http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/backyard-chickens.aspx.
Dr. Loretta Yuen, D.V.M.